It’s been a while since we’ve said much here, but I can assure you it’s not for lack of activity. We’ve been busy building the new infrastructure of Shelby TV — your hub for videos that matter to you, your friends, and the world around you.
But with spring in full swing, there are a few things worth mentioning, so here’s what’s been up!
Fueling these updates is our most recent addition to the team: Edon Ophir, who comes to us by way of Waze and FashionTV. Edon is great — passionate and thoughtful — and is here to serve as your Community Manager. Any and all questions, concerns, or suggestions, Edon is your guy.
Also joining the team is James Aviaz, our resident Australian and Marketing Specialist, who joins us from Songtrust, by way of Uber. I’ve known James for a while personally, I love his passion for great online content, and I am super excited to work with him as he focuses on refining the Shelby TV story and how to tell that to the world.
So, what more can you expect from us in the months to come?
Firstly, video that matters to you. Shelby TV is still the best way to build your personal channel of video, but occasionally we’ll share some of the standout vids. For instance, have you seen “This Is Water“ yet? If not, do yourself a favor and watch now.
Finally, and most importantly, we’ll keep you posted on Shelby TV itself. Product updates, sneak peeks at new features, and opportunities to make a direct impact on Shelby TV. After all, it’s you who powers Shelby TV and the future of video.
Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.
Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know. We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is rude. “No” is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. “No” is for drugs and strangers with candy.
I used to say “Yes” a lot. Yes is the catalyst of serendipity and socializing. It is an amazing way to traverse the world and I love seeing friends and meeting new people.
Lately however, I’m saying “No” so much more. I feel badly, but I also get giddy when I see a day on my calendar with ZERO appointments. And frankly, I need that. I need those long unstructured days to get in the zone and think through the building of a company.
Point is, it’s hard to balance and I’ll never get it perfect. None of us ever will. Anyway, this post is a call to arms for those who say “No.”
I talk a lot about “team.” Teams are fascinating and I absolutely love seeing well-oiled teams executing efficiently toward a common goal. Specifically, I’m talking about our team here at Shelby, but I examine teams in action wherever I see them, whether it’s at a startup, at a restaurant, or on the athletic field.
It is easy to pooh-pooh team dynamics in athletics, as it all seems so simple - “You’re on the same team. You all want to win. Just play.” but it is anything but that, particularly in the pros where big contracts and egos come into play.
One such team (that I’ve discussed before) is the New England Patriots. Sure, I’m from MA, so yes, I like the Patriots… but that’s not the only reason why. The more fascinating reason for me is the organization that Bill Belichick has built. Team first. No ego.
The most powerful example of that is today’s news about Tom Brady’s contract extension, in which he is accepting an offer for FAR less than he’s worth in order to free up cash to build a better, more competitive team for the long haul. (P.S. It’s the second time he’s done this).
In 2005, after his third Super Bowl title, Brady agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal, which at the time was dwarfed by Peyton Manning’s contract, which averaged $14.2 million a year. This year, clearly, he is doing exactly the same thing — in fact, giving the team even more of a hometown discount — with one goal in mind: to keep the Patriots competitive for the rest of his career. He’s putting his money where his mouth is. He knows it’s easy for him to make millions in endorsements. One teammate once said about Brady he would be such a sore loser he’d do whatever it took to never lose. At a time when the growing market for quarterbacks pegs the average per year at about $20 million — Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are there, and it’s likely Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco will be there soon — Brady’s average over the next six years will be consistently about 30 percent lower.
It’s a jaw-dropping move and I can’t help but relate it to startups when hiring. The analogy is simple. The “salary cap” is your runway and you only have so much wiggle room. Startup lore dictates that you must only hire “A” players and get them at any cost, thus blowing through your salary cap. The other option is to spread that cash out across a couple hires in the hopes that the sum of the parts is greater than the individuals.
The latter is what the Patriots have done. They pick up no-name players and groom them into the best team they can possibly be. (Hell, even Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick). Further, their individual stars believe in the organization, its mission and their future legacy so much, that they’re willing to take less cash for the betterment of the team and the potential for true greatness.
I’m obviously impressed by this and commend Brady for it. Of course, it’s easy to do when the difference in cash still leaves you a multi-millionaire with three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife, versus a Ramen-eating startup junkie, but still.
h/t to Alex Rainert for sharing the link.
“If you never want to be criticized, for goodness sake don’t do anything new.” —Jeff Bezos, at re: Invent Conference. November, 2012
Inventing something new isn’t easy. Be it a company, a product, or even just a theory, getting the idea right… designing it, building it, testing it, iterating, repeating. It’s a tiresome process, and that’s just what you have to do to deliver it to a market (or audience).
Once your ideas is ‘there,’ you subject yourself to endless criticism from haters and fans alike. Everyone, it seems, has $.02 for you. Some have $2. Others… well, you get the idea.
It can wear you down. You build and build and build and you put so much energy into this one thing and then someone tells you “It’s ugly.” Others say, “I don’t get it.” They’re the nice ones. Some will just say “That will never work.”
But a funny thing happens on your path to creating something new… you stop listening. Err… you’re listening, but you’re not hearing. The criticism becomes background noise. It’s just there. It doesn’t affect your vision. It doesn’t make you consider radical changes. You just process it, pick out the constructive feedback from the haters hating, and keep moving forward. Forward toward the creation of something different. Something radical. Something special.
Eventually, your idea, your invention, your product - finds the audience that sees the world the way you do… from this slightly strange perspective that becomes more and more feasible the more you stare.
Seems to be working for Jeff Bezos, anyway. Full interview below.
On Wednesday, Dan and I drove up to Cornell University for their annual Startup Career Fair. Our intern Ian, who is in school at Cornell now, also joined us and together we pitched the Shelby vision. We had a great turnout and spoke to many bright young engineers, some of whom could really be great a great fit on our team.
But how, in a quick conversation at a career fair are we able to tell if someone can hack it at Shelby where everyone’s equally as sharp with their wit as they are with C++?
Firstly, let’s establish the scene. There are hundreds of students, all with resumes in hand, many with very similar academic tracks, and little to no work experience. Who stands out?
Well, it is not the student with the wordiest resume or the highest GPA. For us, it’s the candidate who says they prefer programming languages that are hard, not easy. It’s the student who challenges our product vision against the competition. It’s the candidate without the resume, who can clearly and simply demonstrate who they are and how they think.
When asked what we look for in a team member, we usually sum it up as “passion and intelligence.” The right blend of these qualities is such a powerful combo, but given that passion isn’t quantifiable and our traditional methods of testing intelligence are generally lame, it’s tough to spot.
This is why it’s crucial for all recruiting to go through the founders in an early stage startup (and as long as possible into the company’s life cycle). So when a friend was shocked that Dan and I made an 8+ hour roundtrip to recruit at Cornell, all I had to say was “Recruiting a great team and maintaing cultural fit is too important. That’s our job.” and they understood. No one knows cultural fit like the founders.
The final piece of the puzzle that sticks out is the risk-taking, lean forward, go for it hustle that we love to see. When I got an email from a candidate pitching why they’re perfect for Shelby - before we even left town - all I could do is smile. That’s the kind of hustle I love to see, and that’s why we hustled up to Cornell, stood up all day and greeted every candidate with the same passion we’ve had since we started.
Today, I’m headed to Harvard for their Startup Career Fair. Let’s see if they stack up.
Companies are not people. But they are comprised of people. And the people side of the business is harder and way more complicated than building a product is. You have to start with culture, values, and a committment to creating a fantastic workplace. You can’t fake these things. They have to come from the top. They are not bullshit. They are everything. There will be things that happen in the course of building a business that will challenge the belief in the leadership and the future of the company. If everyone is a mercenary and there is no shared culture and values, the team will blow apart. But if there is a meaningful culture that the entire team buys into, the team will stick together, double down, and get through those challenging situations.
At our #ShelbySummit a few weeks ago, we revisited our core values that we wrote as a team in July 2012. Since then, I have taken the team’s feedback and rewritten the values to really establish who we are and what we believe in as a company.
It made me think of Fred’s post which resonated with me a year ago(!), as I share the view that a company is a product unto itself. And while we have had our successes and failures so far, it is our team and culture that have gotten us through each of them.
We’re still putting the finishing touches on our values, but I look forward to sharing them here soon.
Last night the New England Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. I’m a New England fan, but I’m not upset.
Well, most of my life a large portion of my identity was wrapped up in my success in highly competitive athletics. For better or worse, so was much of my happiness. It’s easy to see why.
Winning is fun.
This definitely applied to my athletic career, but somehow it was also inextricably linked to the success of the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox. I was never depressed after a loss or anything, and I never took things as hard as these guys, but a loss always put a damper on my mood for a bit.
The thing that always snapped me out of any funk was remembering the age old “it’s just a game.” There are far more important things than some competition that people are getting paid to play. As I told my saddened Patriots fan friend last night, “There are billions of people in the world who don’t give a F^$# about this game.”
So. The Pats lost. It’s a bummer. Whatever. My well being isn’t tied up in the happiness of Tom Brady and more importantly, it’s not worth getting upset over things I can’t control. I wasn’t on the field. I didn’t lose. Moving on.
But this brings me to why the Patriots, however, should be really, really, really, ridiculously upset. (“DUH Reece” Yeah yeah it’s an obvious statement, but bear with me).
It sucks to say this, but the Patriots have gone from being an underdog, to a perennial power. Three-Superbowls-in-10-years-cocky, and it shows. In startup terminology, they’ve gone from bootstrapped hustlers to bubble-funded babies. They’ve lost the hunger, the ire, the “YOU THINK YOUAH BETTAH THAN ME?!” hustle that got them where they are.
Instead, they hold this sort of “It’s ok. We’ve got Coach Belichik and Tom Brady and we’ll be fine…” Thus, when the Patriots finally got ahold of the ball in the 4th quarter… it was way too late.
But so what… “it’s just a game,” right?
Thing is… “It’s just a game” doesn’t sit right when you didn’t leave everything on the field. The Patriots could’ve played with tons of heart and still lost, just like there are startups out there that hustle like hell and still fail… but those startups tried. They worked their asses off and went for it. They walk away with scars, but hold their heads high.
The Patriots can’t do that. They didn’t work hard. They treated it like it was just another game on the road to yet another Superbowl and now they’re wishing they could take every down again, and again.
The takeaway - for startups and athletes alike - summed up in two classic coaching cliches: “Play every play like it’s your last and leave everything on the field.” You may still lose, but at least you made it a game.
As for me, I’ve got my own game to play.
- 8 Shelby’ers.
- 7 direct hits with snowballs.
- 6 pots of coffee.
- 5 beds.
- 4 meetings.
- 3 interns.
- 2 days.
- 1 hot tub.
- 0 connectivity.
The Shelby Summit 2013.
Last week, we held the first annual Shelby Summit — a two day event in which we took the entire team* up North a couple hours to a house in the woods with no wifi/phone service. We revisited our core values, laid out our strategy for 2013, set big goals, both personally and professionally, and had a lot of laughs along the way.
Planning the Summit came together quickly, as Dan and I realized that January is already off to a flying start and if we didn’t take a minute to slow down, it’ll be the second quarter before we knew it. Luckily, our team is small enough that we execute fast and our man Frasher is an ace on AirB’nB, so we found a big old house that was off the grid and booked it.
Prior to leaving, I asked the team to do two things.
- Spend time thinking about goals for 2013. Professionally and personally.
- Submit ingredients needed to prepare a course with your partner (both assigned by Dan and I) for our team dinner Thursday night. More on this later.
Most of the team got to the house Wednesday night (the rest came up Thursday AM), and I kicked off the day with some opening remarks, ground rules, and the goal of the Summit: “Get everyone at Shelby aligned and excited for 2013, with clear goals as a product, company, brand, and as individuals.”
We then jumped into a discussion of our core values that we wrote together this past summer. For any startups considering this type of exercise, I highly recommend putting in the time early on, then revisiting them months later to see what holds up and what doesn’t. Based upon our discussion, one core value subsumed another, others evolved to better reflect who we are, but otherwise our values held strong and have directly impacted the way we work since writing them down. Further, having this discussion at the start of the Summit gave us a vocabulary with which to address everything else.
After a quick lunch, we headed out for a hike around the Ashokan Reservoir. We lucked out with beautiful weather, and had some fun tossing snowballs around.
The main dish of our Summit was next, with a few hours spent diving deep into our plans for the upcoming year. While Dan and I have a great direction for this, it’s imperative that everyone understands the challenges ahead and commits to the goals we all set as a company. This led to some amazing feedback for us as founders, and I am extremely fortunate to work with this team - passionate people who want to raise the bar. (I know all startups might talk this talk, but this team walks the walk).
Now for some serious laughs. To prepare dinner, Dan and I assigned everyone to an odd-ball couple - people who don’t work together much or are generally opposites in personality - and gave each team responsibility for a course. No one was to collaborate, so it was a true pot-luck.
- Cocktail: “Old Fashioned” by Reece and Frasher
- Appetizers: Prosciutto Mac’n’Cheese Cupcakes, Salad (dressing not homemade) Gorgonzola/Honey and Fontina Prosciutto Crostinis by Chris and Vincent
- Main: Grilled meats. Lots of ‘em. Spicy Grilled Mushroom/Eggplant (Henry and Mike)
- Sides: Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressingand Candied Almonds(!) and Roast Potato & Pepper Hash by Josh and Ian
- Dessert: Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Oatmeal Cookies by Dan and Brendan
All I can say, is this team can cook. Lots of pride went into the preparations and everyone enjoyed it, especially Chris and Vincent’s appetizers. [It’s also worth noting that I haven’t laughed that hard, for that long, in a while. My face hurt from laughing so much. This team is hilarious].
We cleaned up our act and hung by the fire for a couple of great games that will remain nameless (so as not to give away the keys to winning for future hires), before settling down for a discussion about goal setting. This involved explaining the S.M.A.R.T framework “Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Timely” which we then all applied to our individual goals together the next morning.
Having everyone share their goals out loud was a perfect capstone for the Summit. We now all know what it is we want to achieve as individuals, and how that will make us better as a company now, and in the future. I won’t list out our personal or company goals here, but if you stay tuned, they should be apparent in everything we do this year.
Here’s to our team and to 2013. Let’s do this!
[Sometimes selfies are hard to do.]
*One teammate couldn’t make it due to some vacation time planned well in advance. He was with us in spirit.